Missouri Said "No" To 8 Billion Dollar Nuclear Power Plant Expansion

callaway nuclear power plant photo

Callaway Nuclear Power Plant, Missouri, USA. Image credit:Wikipedia

In the US State of Missouri a utility company, wishing to expand on an existing nuclear power generation facility site, sought legislation which would enable raising the electrical rates for existing customers to pay the future costs of that planned project. Taxpayers "reacted" badly, and both the legislation and expansion plans have been shelved. A local station, KOMU, has the full story, titled Powering Down Callaway II, here. Discussion of national context follows.

Right now, energy companies in Missouri aren't allowed to raise their electricity rates to pay for new construction due to a law passed in 1976 after the first Callaway nuclear plant was built. All construction costs have to be financed by investors, bank loans and other sources.

Those opposed to the bill, which would have allowed electricity rate increases to help pay for the cost of the plant said that it would increase the cost of electricity too much and passes the risk of a failed construction project onto the consumer.

Much more than just a Missouri issue.
Other states have seen efforts to allow utilities to "front load" the cost of planning, design, and even construction on existing utility customers. The practice has been controversial whenever it was tried.

To be fair to the Missouri utility, it should be pointed out that Missouri, a highly coal-power dependent state - see US State Of Missouri Needs Some Renewable Energy Tips for details - has relatively cheap electricity by national standards, so that the proposed rate increase would have brought prices closer to the national average. On the other hand, Missouri has many poor customers who can ill afford any price increase. Ditto for other highly coal-dependent states such as Utah, Illinois, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Georgia.

What are the larger implications.
Nuclear power is so much more expensive than any other source that it will only be competitive when taxpayers are forced to become investors in it. Imagine the reaction to a similar proposal if put forward in a state which already had relatively high electricity rates!

What happens two decades from now, when carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes are floated as integral to coal-fired utility plant expansions? I'm guessing the high costs of that technology, too, will result in front-loaded rate increase proposals that will lead to taxpayer backlash.

CCS is most likely to be proposed in predominantly coal-dependent states: the same states where Democratic and Republican opposition to the carbon cap and trade bill now in Congress is strongest.

Which leaves conservation and renewables as the next best options. These should be seriously pursued, even if only from a cost effectiveness standpoint.

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